â¿¿ RETAIL SALES. Just as household wealth has recovered, so has consumers' willingness to spend more to shop, eat out or go on vacation. That trend has spurred job growth at retailers and restaurants. Retail sales totaled $421.4 billion in February. Adjusted for inflation, that was nearly 18 percent above the recession low and just 0.7 percent below the record level in November 2007.
â¿¿ LAYOFFS. The job market remains weak by some measures. But consider this: If you have a job, you're less likely to lose it than at any other point in at least 12 years. That marks a sharp turnaround from the depths of the recession, when layoffs soared â¿¿ from 1.8 million in December 2007 to 2.6 million in January 2009. In January this year, employers cut 1.5 million jobs â¿¿ the lowest monthly total in the 12 years the government has tracked such data. That explains why the number of people seeking first-time unemployment benefits each week has plummeted. That number reached 667,000 one week in March 2009, the most in nearly 25 years. Last month, weekly applications averaged 343,000, about the same as in November 2007, just before the recession began.
â¿¿ FORECLOSURES. Among the most visible signs of the recession were the "Foreclosure" and "Bank Owned" signs that dotted housing developments around the country. But home prices have been rising steadily. Foreclosures have sunk back to pre-recession levels. Banks repossessed 45,000 homes in February 2013, according to RealtyTrac, a foreclosure listing firm. That was the fewest since September 2007 and was down from a peak of 102,000 in March 2010.
â¿¿ STOCK MARKET. Last month, the stock market finally regained the painful losses investors suffered during the recession. The Dow Jones industrial average closed at an all-time high of 14,253.77 on March 6. That topped its previous peak of 14,164.53 in October 2007. The Dow had plunged all the way to 6,547.05 in March 2009. It closed even higher on Tuesday at 14,662. 01. And the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index, a broader measure of the market, reached a record 1,570.25.